netra - Sørbyen
Hypnotic Dirge
Electronica/Black Metal
12 songs (01:10:13)
Release year: 2012
netra, Hypnotic Dirge
Reviewed by Charles
A bit like the strange Swiss band Blutmond (who also have a new one coming out), Netra drag black metal away from the rural word, and set it loose in nocturnal cityscapes. Their last release- Melancolie Urbaine- was a strange, eclectic album, peppered with fragments of saloon jazz and electronica that evoked sleazy urban existence in much the same way that their peers use acoustic interludes as a short-cut to pastoral atmosphere. Because they use such an ambitious array of elements their records can be patchy, and I don’t feel like I’ve yet heard a fully-realised, totally convincing Netra release, but on this record in particular they are starting to hint at a genuinely interesting vision.

It’s a long album- over an hour- and to be honest the first few tracks leave me slightly alienated. At the beginning, it seems to stab awkwardly at dark pop music. Opener A Dance with the Asphalt, for example, dabbles somewhat leadenly in swing music, married to awkward, shaky clean vocals and ending with slightly tacky electric piano tinkling. Crawling moves heavily towards Gothic pop, albeit augmented by a rather nicely executed guitar solo. The title track is fairly nondescript ambient, as is track four, whose title- Kill for a Hug- is surely a bit of a joke. So far, it comes across as a slightly vexatious album, somewhat shiftless and superficial.

But it gets much better- in fact, in the later stages Sørbyen starts to really convince as black metal. The album swirls together pumping electronic ideas and Burzumic black metal in a manner to rival more high-profile acts that have been doing similar things in recent years, like Nachtmystium. Wish She Could Vanish, for example, works extremely well as a gothic black metal singsong, combining sickly distorted guitar sounds with impudent electronic pounding and freaky synth strings at its climax. There are also flashes of mad electronica ideas that suggest Netra could have done quite a good job of remixing the last Morbid Angel record- like on My Ill-Posed Life or Strange Bliss at Dusk.

The band sound much more at home when working with black metal, and allowing themselves to augment it with other elements, rather than voyaging out entirely into other areas (especially jazz). When they do the former, the compositions suddenly reveal themselves less as experimental fripperies and more as well-conceived and effective. Take Emzlah, which begins as creepy, downbeat ambiance (replete with smooth jazz guitar licks) but which builds nicely into synth-augmented depressive black metal with impressively little disruption of the pervading gloominess. As an aside, it’s also good to have black metal incorporate flamboyant soloing, as with Streetlamp Obsession, which even throws in a flashy bass lead. Overall, provided you can persevere through its frustrating moments, this is an interesting release and a step up from 2010’s Melancolie Urbaine.

Killing Songs :
Wish She Could Vanish, Strange Bliss at Dusk, Emzlah
Charles quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by netra that we have reviewed:
netra - Mélancolie Urbaine reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
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